The Financial Lives of Artists

The financial life of an artist is rife with irregularities. One bountiful month may be followed by a season of drought. A project that demands arduous work may offer “exposure” rather than earnings; a commercial venture may be lucrative but artistically unfulfilling. 

Paper Brigade: Jewish Literature in Conversation with the World

Paper Brigade: Jewish Literature in Conversation with the World

One of the great things about running a Jewish arts and culture newsletter is that you get to spend a lot of time with, well, Jewish arts and culture. Some of my happiest hours so far have been spent with Paper Brigade, the Jewish Book Council’s yearly journal. (Buy it here.) As you likely know, the Jewish Book Council (JBC) is “the longest-run­ning orga­ni­za­tion devot­ed exclu­sive­ly to the sup­port and cel­e­bra­tion of Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture.” The JBC has...

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Artists on Artists: Susan Comninos

Artists on Artists: Susan Comninos

Born and raised in upstate New York, at the northernmost tip of Appalachia, Susan Comninos is a poet, writer, and teacher. Her hyper-observant poems explore themes of Jewish identity, family, and nature. She also experiments with verse forms, like the Persian ghazal. Since her debut collection of poems, Out of Nowhere, is forthcoming from SFA Press, we asked Ms. Comninos to share with us some of the poets who inspire her own intense and...

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Hard Truths About the Writing Profession

Hard Truths About the Writing Profession

I am about to make a very public complaint about one of the best things that ever happened to me. This, I think it fair to say, is something very few authors would do. The risk of biting the hand that doesn’t feed you is not worth it for most, and the journey to actually being published is so arduous that writers will do virtually anything to appear grateful and willing. Believe me, I am a grateful and willing author with many more books in me. But I also have a day job, which...

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Harnessing the Power of the Network: The Council of American Jewish Museums

Harnessing the Power of the Network: The Council of American Jewish Museums

In 1904, The Jewish Museum—the first American museum dedicated entirely to Jewish art, history, and culture—opened its doors in New York City. It's difficult to say exactly how many have opened (and closed) since then. What we do know is that the network of the Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM) includes 70 institutions that regularly interact, collaborate, and share ideas. Some institutions educate the public about Jewish history; others celebrate and explore Jewish arts and culture....

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Jewish Theatre Artists and Delta:  Anxiety, Uncertainty, and Opportunity

Jewish Theatre Artists and Delta: Anxiety, Uncertainty, and Opportunity

The world of theater is simultaneously emerging and retreating, as the Delta variant upends a long-awaited return to normalcy. Comebacks have been replaced with setbacks, and artists have adjusted their expectations accordingly, anxiously bracing themselves for delays and backlogs.  Broadway’s shutdown in March of 2020, with virtually all live venues around the country following suit, led to what the New York Times called a “Great Cultural Depression”: theatrical artists on unemployment,...

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LABA: Global Artists Delve into Jewish Texts

LABA: Global Artists Delve into Jewish Texts

The study session was online, 53 faces in little Zoom boxes. And yet the atmosphere was electric. For a special Rosh Hashanah session, Ruby Namdar, Torah teacher and acclaimed novelist, was taking LABA fellows from across the world through the "Big Bang of Jewish identity" (Genesis 32) — when Jacob, after a "dreamlike" wrestling match, is renamed Israel. "What does it actually mean to be God wrestlers?" he asked. "And if we are not theologically inclined, what is the modern, secular...

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Artists on Artists: Sam Mogelonsky

Artists on Artists: Sam Mogelonsky

Sam Mogelonsky is a Toronto-based artist, curator, designer, and arts professional with an indefatigable enthusiasm for Canadian art and Jewish culture.  As an artist, Sam uses embellishment to speak to notions of craft and decoration, while also engaging in the dialogue between the mass-produced and the handmade. (Sam's photo above is actually a detail of one of her own sculptures.) Sam co-curated two recent exhibitions (with Ruth Jones). Glimmers of the Radiant...

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Capacity Building: Entrusting Arts Orgs to Bring Themselves to the Next Level

Capacity Building: Entrusting Arts Orgs to Bring Themselves to the Next Level

Editor's note: This week's piece is part of our series on philanthropic strategies that elevate the world of arts and culture. We encourage you to add to the conversation with comments and suggestions. At the Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield, Massachusetts, every production draws on the collaborative talents of the company’s ensemble.  “It’s the best way to create art,” says Founder and Artistic Director Stacy Klein. With an ensemble, “you build your craft over time. You also...

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You’re gonna be busy. Make time for art.

You’re gonna be busy. Make time for art.

Many of us are emerging from late-summer breaks to realize that the High Holidays are "early" this year (Jackie Mason, z"l: "the Jewish holidays are late or early. When are they on time?"). So here is a gentle reminder that you make time for art and culture. This week's Compendium highlights notable exhibitions with online components. As ever, we look forward to your thoughts. And remember, you can subscribe to the CANVAS Compendium newsletter here. He's your man. San Francisco's...

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First Year, First Impressions

First Year, First Impressions

Who would be crazy enough to launch a fund supporting Jewish arts and culture in March of 2020? To our own amazement, we did.It’s been barely a year since we made our first grants to Jewish arts and culture networks. Since then, CANVAS has committed more than $1.4 million to the encourage and strengthen modern Jewish creativity in North America.We’re just getting started. But before we look ahead, we'd like to take stock of what’s happened thus far. Meeting a Need, Filling a Gap We founded...

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Artists on Artists: Mark Rubin, Jew of Oklahoma

Artists on Artists: Mark Rubin, Jew of Oklahoma

Oklahoma-born and Texas-reared, multi-instrumentalist Mark Rubin, "The Jew of Oklahoma," is an unabashed Southern Jew. In albums like Songs for the Hangman's Daughter (2018) and The Triumph of Assimilation (2021), Rubin fuses deeply American musical influences with deeply Jewish themes. His credits include collaborations with Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars, The Other Europeans, and Andy Statman, as well as two decades on faculty at KlezKamp. Today, he lives and makes music in New...

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Jewish Film Festivals during COVID: Adaptability and Resilience

Jewish Film Festivals during COVID: Adaptability and Resilience

The pandemic was a potentially disastrous time for creators of all kinds, but we think it's fair to say that it was especially devastating to film. Pretty much every aspect of it, from filmmaking to moviegoing, is communal, and communal doesn't work well with COVID-19. But when we looked into something close to our hearts at CANVAS — Jewish film festivals — we found that like many Jewish stories, it's been complicated, but it's also been about adaptability and resilience.  Challenges create...

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Why should Pride end with June?

Why should Pride end with June?

Pride Month is coming to a close. Often this is when discussions of queer and trans rights begin to wane. This month, however, we thought we'd end the month with reminders of Jewish LGBTQ contributions to the arts as a way of keeping the Pride ball rolling. As always, we welcome your comments, and Happy Pride! The Lush Art of Art Lush Handmade gemstone pomegranate by Art Lush. Art Lush is a queer, Jewish, Edinburgh-based artist who works with found materials. They describe...

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Artists on Artists: Maya Ciarrocchi

Artists on Artists: Maya Ciarrocchi

This week CANVAS Compendium begins our semi-regular newsletter, Artists on Artists, in which we invite Jewish creators to tell us who inspires them. We begin with Maya Ciarrocchi, a New York City-based artist who works in drawing, printmaking, performance, video, and social practice. Her projects excavate disappeared histories—destroyed buildings, maps of vanished places, Yizkor books, and viewer-contributed writing—to explore themes of loss and healing.  To learn more about Ciarrocchi's...

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Beyond Kugel: The Foodies Re-invigorating Jewish Cuisine

Beyond Kugel: The Foodies Re-invigorating Jewish Cuisine

Though Jewish communities exist in every region of the world, Jewish cooking, in North America, can seem a bit limited. For many, it's Eastern European by default: matzah ball soup, potato kugel, roast chicken. As much as we love a good kugel, it's undeniable that Jewish food was due for reconsideration.  What we're seeing now confirms our idea of a renaissance in Jewish culture, with Jewish foodies infusing flavors that reflect their Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi, and...

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Art and Activism: Visual Responses to Antisemitism

Art and Activism: Visual Responses to Antisemitism

Last week in the U.S., we saw a lot of antisemitic violence — synagogues vandalized and Jews threatened and attacked. After personal safety, the question for American Jews is how to persevere and process. What effect do these incidents have on our Jewish identities? What do we want to communicate about being a target? And how can we combine our artistic impulses with activism? These three recent visual responses explore the overlap between art and activism, suggesting...

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New Books from Jewish Women

This fraught week coincided with Shavuot, when we celebrate the gift of Torah. We might also celebrate millennia of Jewish literature. At CANVAS, we're marking the occasion with three new books by Jewish women. They explore a range of topics — the AIDS crisis, comedy, family — with wit and insight. Happy reading! Let us know what you think. Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993, by Sarah Schulman. ACT UP fearlessly and relentlessly raised awareness of...

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The Cosmic Reunion at DAWN

The Cosmic Reunion at DAWN

Beloved holidays have common ingredients. There are familiar melodies, recognizable symbols, and festive meals. Though Shavuot is significant in marking the ancient pilgrimage festival and celebrating the momentous occasion of receiving the Torah, it lacks the endearing traditions that lend others their appeal. Shavuot can be daunting to Jews who feel tentative about Hebrew texts and uncertain around matters of God and faith; after all, the holiday involves an overnight textual study that...

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No More Making Shabbos Alone

No More Making Shabbos Alone

There is an old Yiddish saying that, like many old Yiddish sayings, is not a positive one: yeder makht shabes far zikh. "Everyone makes Shabbos for themselves."Art, like Shabbos, represents the separation between the everyday and the spiritual, between the ordinary and extraordinary. We celebrate alone if we must. But we flourish in the presence of others who share our values and our vision. This is why we are so heartened by the arrival of a new film fund, Jewish Story Partners (JSP). JSP is...

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“I didn’t want to write a Holocaust book”: Menachem Kaiser on “Plunder”

“I didn’t want to write a Holocaust book”: Menachem Kaiser on “Plunder”

Menachem Kaiser’s Plunder: A Memoir of Family Property and Nazi Treasure is the record of his attempt to claim his family's apartment building in Poland. Along the way he learns surprising facts about his family from treasure-hunters of Nazi artifacts. Liba Vaynberg spoke to Kaiser about his process and his complicated inheritance as a Jewish artist. LV: Why did you write this? And how?  MK: Interestingly enough, I was very adamant to not write a Holocaust book. I had been...

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The Complications at Our Table: Olivia Guterson’s “Plastover” Seder Table

The Complications at Our Table: Olivia Guterson’s “Plastover” Seder Table

For Chanukah 2020, visual artist Olivia Guterson crafted a paper lantern menorah as a public installation to illuminate the issue of homelessness. For Passover 2021, Guterson again merged her brilliantly detailed artistry, her Judaism, and her keen awareness of social and environmental issues.  At Our Table, an installation at Detroit's Museum of Contemporary Arts, invoked iconic emblems of a Passover seder table — all assembled from single-use plastic.  Reboot and the Museum of...

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You need to listen to Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton

You need to listen to Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton

We're nuts about this bluesman who plumbs the American song catalogue for forgotten gems. His music will accompany Brother, Brother, an illustrated audioplay by Aleshea Harris. And check out his Facebook page, or this online concert, or this article where he discusses his Jewish heritage.

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“Tahara”: A Compelling Coming-of-Age

“Tahara”: A Compelling Coming-of-Age

The new film Tahara has been creating a stir in the festivals. Written by Jess Zeidman and directed by Olivia Peace, Tahara is a queer coming-of-age drama about an anxious teen manipulated into a romantic encounter with her best friend during the funeral of their former Hebrew school classmate. Liba Vaynberg spoke to Peace and Zeidman about their collaboration. What happens in Hebrew school very rarely stays in Hebrew school. Whether it’s a sacred blessing burned into the back of your brain or...

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The Vessel of Song

The Vessel of Song

The Rising Song Institute is reinventing Jewish spiritual life through song. Writer and activist Lonnie Firestone spoke to Joey Weisenberg, founder and co-director of the Philadelphia-based institute. “How do you create a melody? What happens?” a participant asked. “The hardest part is not making a melody,” Joey Weisenberg replied. “It’s declaring or finalizing it as a melody. There’s a never-ending river of notes flowing through the head. As a musician, you’re trying to dip...

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